Getting kids to write

Discussion in 'Fourth Grade' started by TeacherWhoRuns, Apr 4, 2018.

  1. TeacherWhoRuns

    TeacherWhoRuns Companion

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    Apr 4, 2018

    I'm so tired of going into battle to get kids to write. It's "I don't know what to do," "I don't have any ideas" or I have one kid who looks at me and says, "No thank you" when I tell him to get to work. They have all the tools they need from brainstorming activities to graphic organizers to the option of working with partners, but I've got three boys who refuse to do anything and one who slaps words on the page, tells me he's done and then argues with me when I tell him he needs to add more details or indent his paragraphs or fix whatever sloppy glaring problem he's turned in. I can sit there and tell them exactly what to write and they still refuse to produce. Today one even told me to just do it myself if I want it done.
    How long until summer vacation?
     
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  3. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Apr 5, 2018

    Wow, I would contact the parents and have a meeting with the principal because I foresee this causing these boys major problems when they grow up...

    Concerning your last question, my summer vacation starts on June 1st and I can’t wait. I return from Spring Break on April 10th (mine started on March 30th) so it is nice not having to get up early each morning to make the daily commute. :D

    38 days left for me until :cool:.
     
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  4. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    Apr 5, 2018

    Sounds like middle or high school, but I wouldn't be surprised if you teach elementary. Tolerating any abusive language or even overt inappropriate body language from these students will embolden them to continue and even escalate their sick behavior. Even worse is that you can expect others to follow their example, thus compounding the problem with the class. As with all behavioral problems whether it be dogs, cats, parrots or children, the longer it is allowed to persist the more difficult it will be to extinguish. Has this been going on since the beginning of the school year?
     
  5. TrademarkTer

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    I'd think about making sure the pre-writes, brainstorming activities, graphic organizers, etc are OPTIONAL ONLY. I remember those types of things made me HATE writing, but I found myself not minding writing papers in college when I could just dive right into my paper without worrying about other pointless exercises ahead of time.
     
  6. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Apr 5, 2018

    This is what I've started to do. I provide some examples of graphic organizers, but students can plan in the way that works best for them. The reluctant writers often feel that, once they have finished all of their planning, they are finished writing. The strongest writers I have ever taught have never done well with extensive, formulated pre-planning.
     
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  7. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Apr 5, 2018

    I wonder if these students are working for a grade rather than writing for a purpose. Working for a reward involves achieving an instant dopamine fix; if the fix doesn't come they find another way to achieve it. Writing to create and express is a different type of reward and one that is more fulfilling.

    I agree with TrademarkTer, I think curricula overdo the preparatory and finishing procedures. For myself, when I write fiction, I also jump right into the story, then rewrite or even start over as necessary; an outline spoils the fun for me. It's like knowing how a story ends before I read it. I especially enjoy writing myself into hole and trying to figure my way out of it. However, if I write a research paper, then I prefer an outline. I've learned from workshops that different people (and kids) have different organizing preferences. On the other hand, time restraints and student population restrict much of this ideal freedom in a school setting. Somewhere, I think we need to strike a balance between individuality and group procedures.

    For graphic organizers, one of the most productive I've found is to have the students create a cartoon storyboard, much like the storyboard for television programs. I would demonstrate the procedure myself prior to the students doing so. In third grade, I would draw 4 or 5 boxes. I would sketch a quick picture for each box. Then I'd caption each picture with a topic sentence. (I don't worry about neatness or spelling at this point). This becomes the outline for the story or essay.

    Your students' attitude troubles me, as I'm sure it does you, also. I'm wondering if an author would be willing to Skype with the students, or if an author describing her/his career could be found on You Tube. This might encourage them to write to express who they are rather than writing to get enough correct words on a paper to get a grade.
     
  8. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    Apr 5, 2018

    If you haven't already, choose some spectacular mentor texts. Find really well written sentences and use one sentence at a time. Talk about why it works, what makes it such a great sentence and then have students try to create their own version in their writing. Talk about different writer's craft - why did the author do that? When could you use this strategy in your own writing? Try the strategy out a few times and then choose your best example to use in your own writing.

    Project an image and get everyone to do a quick write about what they notice and wonder about the picture. (It's okay to write "I'm not wondering anything). The point is to write for the entire time. Start with just a couple of minutes of writing and make sure you do the quick write with them. Then tell everyone to re-read their quick write and choose their best line or phrase. Everyone reads it aloud, while you record them on the board. Once all the GOLDEN LINES are on the board, talk about why they work. What is so great about the writing everyone chose to share? Do this frequently.

    Do they know how to work with a partner? Model what talking to another author looks like and sounds like. Same with graphic organizers. Model the benefits of using one and why an author might choose to use one, but don't require it. I always hated using graphic organizers because I had my idea and was okay with re-reading to fix it.

    Let them write a few different drafts. If they want to slap a few words on a page and be done, then let them do that for a few different topics. Then, once they have a few drafts they can go back and choose which one they'd like to publish. Save all of your quick write drafts and model how to choose which one to publish.

    Look for more ways to include choice. The point of writing instruction should be to give students a voice and teach them how to communicate their ideas.
     
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  9. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Apr 5, 2018

    ,
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2019
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  10. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Apr 5, 2018

    My opinion is some kids love creative writing and are imaginative. They could write forever about just about anything because they could imagine just about anything. So, for kids that have good imaginations, open topic writing can work wonderfully to allow them to apply their writing mechanics, grammar, and organization skills.

    Then there are the others. We do a disservice to them because they need to write, but most likely won't ever become a writer of fiction. We ignore non-fiction writing and academic writing at the expense of creating the next "great" writer when what society needs is 90% functional writers and 10% who end up authors.

    The thinking is that allowing kids to choose a topic allows them to write about something they know about. It is knowledge you don't have to teach in advance in order for them to produce a product.

    In the stone ages, there used to be more academic writing about what we were learning in science or history along with a lot of what I would consider "book reports". Students, except for those who were really stragglers, would use content knowledge to write. They had facts to create outlines. Since this started in early grades, kids learned to work from one sentence to a paragraph of connected ideas by using what they were learning. It is amazing how 30 second graders can come up with different paragraphs utilizing the same information.

    We have become so fixated on reaching those who have potential for "great" that we fail the rest.

    I suggest changing how topics are provided for writing. Even if you start with all of the information on a sheet and have them organize it then write from the sheet. Have extra information so that there is some choice. It will be helpful to many of them. Then take their writing and pull sentences from them and demonstrate different styles without using names.

    I think we put too much on the students at once from too early of an age. In my district kids are writing before they had any instruction on letter formation. They write before they know any mechanics. The expectation is that with exposure to print of various sorts that they will just pick it up. For some, that works. For many, it doesn't.
     
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  11. Been There

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    Apr 6, 2018

    As a intervention specialist, I would usually leave creative writing to the classroom teachers and instead focused on descriptive writing with my reluctant writers. Since I hated having to hear any negativity from my students ("I don't want to do this!"), I would think of unconventional ways to motivate them to want to write. Since I majored in entomology, many of my anticipatory sets or hooks often centered around insects. For example, I once videotaped the manner by which an antlion [this is a hyperlink] secured its meal - students would then write a narrative describing the sequence of events that they had just witnessed. Another way to eliminate any resistance is to show a video that shows an exceptional person involved in an unusual activity - you can provide specific questions for students to respond to with short, concise answers. You might even consider discussing personal attributes (don't be afraid to use this word with your first graders) that the person in the video possesses. Any video should always be followed by an engaging discussion in which you merely ask reflective questions about the video (minimal verbiage) with different students responding, before they begin responding to a writing prompt (keep it simple). Many students hate writing because they lack the requisite grammar, spelling, vocabulary to compose their sentences - in this case you may want to create a word list on the board during the group discussion that can be used as a reference. Consider just requiring 2-3 sentences to start with.

    Before I thought of using the antlion video as a writing prompt, I merely showed it to my students to test their reaction. Much to my surprise, the next day one student (who hated writing) proudly produced a paragraph that he had written which described what he had learned! I liked the fact that he included a series of drawings to show the sequence of events. He was intrinsically motivated to write about the video even though it wasn't even required!

    Teaching Tip: Use psychology to your advantage. If you can pique a student's interest, he/she will tend to be more amenable to following your instructions. Disguise the standards by embedding them in a fascinating activity.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2018
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  12. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    Apr 6, 2018

    Love this! I'm a literacy coach and before I do a writing lesson with any class, my question is always "What do they enjoy?" I always start with a topic or idea that is interesting and relevant to the class. And I keep it general enough that every student has a place to get started.
     
  13. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    The above posts reminded me of an experience at college, if I might briefly embark on an allusion. One the students was giving her senior recital. Because she was the most popular singer at college at that time, the auditorium was jam packed. It was an enjoyable performance, but midway through, the senior appeared on stage dressed as a little child and eating a lollipop. She placed the lollipop on the piano and began to sing "I hate music! but I like to sing. La, la, la...." This was Leonard Bernstein's composition from his quintuplet "A Cycle of Five Kid Songs for Soprano and Piano". It was quite humorous, but proclaimed a strong message. The lyrics describe how music can become cumbersome with all the extra refinements that embellish a musical performance, especially in a child's eyes. The song went on to describe that "that's not music. Not what I call music, no sir....Music is silly. I hate music, but I like to sing."

    Perhaps that is what school sometimes does to writing, (and reading, math, and science for that matter). Although we do need to teach the academics, we also need to be careful not to kill with the skills or distract with the facts. I don't mean to imply that the OP is doing so, but overall, in general, I wonder if schools are pushing too hard too early.

    A good You Tube version of the composition and a transcript for the lyrics are

    emilydainasaras on You Tube (Google "Leonard Bernstein's I Hate Music) (I especially enjoyed the pianist's facial expressions at the end of the song).

    www.vocalartsdc.org for the article "My Favorite Song" Dec. 2014

    A quick note on my above allusion, a couple weeks after the performance, a professional singer gave a performance in the same auditorium. Midway through his performance, he happened to notice the lollipop still sitting on the piano. He picked it up, and we were in hysterics--we all knew where it came from!
     
  14. Been There

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    Kudos!!! You hit the bullseye with your astute observations! Unlike today's curriculum, the emphasis on academic writing in the stone age prepared me for high school and college - funny, I don't recall ever having to write a fictitious story in at either of those levels. I've often wonder if teachers realize how much more difficult it is to write an imaginary story with all the additional capitalization and punctuation, than it is to write a straightforward narrative or descriptive paragraph. Wouldn't it be more developmentally appropriate to teach students to write simple descriptive sentences about concrete objects and real people in the room, before introducing them to the overwhelming complexities of creative writing? The writing exams that we are required to pass for our teaching credentials don't include a creative writing component - I wonder why.

    It's just my surmise, but I also believe that if the stone age writing curriculum had been retained, our communications in print today would display far fewer errors in syntax and spelling and people would be able to speak using grammatically correct sentences (e.g. I, you, me).
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2018
  15. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    I hope that others do not misinterpret your question to mean "What are their interests?" What students think they enjoy or are interested in are often quite limited. My emphasis was not so much on what students would "enjoy", but more on expanding their horizons by introducing them to stimulating presentations of unfamiliar and provocative subjects.

    For example, my most extreme anticipatory set involved having 3rd and 4th grade students (girls included) hold a brown millipede that I had collected from my backyard. Even those who were extremely squeamish and reluctant eventually participated with a lot of encouragement. As you might imagine, the exciting experience opened the door to a strangely fascinating new world that students were eager to write about! Click here if you dare to watch a brief video clip.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
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  16. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Apr 6, 2018

    What grade do you teach? Do students have choice when it comes to what they write? I strongly believe in the workshop model where students have choices, and can decide (for the most part) when to begin and finish a piece. Can you tell us a little more about what your writing block looks like?
     
  17. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    OP, you still haven't told us what grade you teach. If you teach one of the elementary grades, here's yet another way that is guaranteed to motivate your students to write. I spent a good amount of time learning to perfect a few magical illusions, by reading books on magic and watching training videos on YouTube. Even my most challenging students were mesmerized by my illusions that often involved the use of technology. One of my earliest "performances" started with a small red ball moving erratically on-screen (used PowerPoint) - I attempted to capture the digital image of the ball with both hands. After missing several times, I successfully caught the ball with cupped hands - it simultaneously disappeared from the screen, only to reappear as an actual small plastic ball in my hands!

    As always, stick to descriptive writing with students who are aversive to writing. After they witnessed the above illusion, we would discuss what they saw while I recorded on the board some key words that the students used. Then, they were directed to write three sentences describing what had taken place. Depending on their level of proficiency I would: provide three sentence starters for students to complete or I would demonstrate the process by involving the entire class in helping to compose three sentences. In this case, the narrative writing described the sequence of events (i.e. three simple steps) that resulted in my catching the ball.

    It was often helpful to remind the class that they would have the privilege of watching another illusion only if they made a good effort to complete their three sentences. Of course, little did they know that the next performance would require five written sentences!

    Teaching Tip: If you don't have the time to learn some magic yourself, you can always just look for a video on YouTube. Simple illusions work best for beginning writers.
     
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  18. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    I was recalling my last two years of high school. We moved and I attended a new school. This school had an emphasis on writing and it clicked with the students. Personally, just for fun, I wrote during study hall, I wrote poetry during journaling time in my humanities class, I even wrote at home. Today, I still write. My friend writes a popular weekly column in the newspaper. Writing became just something we did as teenagers, along with watching school sports, listening to rock and roll, and keeping up with the escapades of Fonzi.

    In my freshman and sophomore years at my former high school, I don't recall how it got started, but in between classes, most of the students had their noses in a book. I was hooked on Susan Hinton books. When I moved to my new school, my imagination raced ahead, what if I could be published at 18 as she was; in fact, she began writing The Outsiders when she was 15 years old. I remember another senior in some of my classes had the same aspirations and actually completed a novel; I don't know if he ever got published or not. (Someone the same age and name has published 10 books--I wonder).

    Babies are born interested. Kids grow up interested. Perhaps more fitting words are curiosity and a drive to explore. I have witnessed how kids' interests can be developed, swayed, swerved, even manipulated. TV commercials know all the tricks of this trade. Trends and fashions play on this, too. Examples: When we were in high school, we wouldn't be caught dead in a hoodie! When I was 13-14 or so, my friends and I developed our own game of laser tag, without the lasers of course (they weren't in public use yet). Another kid my age couldn't understand our enthusiasm for the game; he thought it was too kiddish. Hmmm.... I agree with Been There, we are even more successful when we spark the students' interest.
     
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  19. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    Apr 9, 2018

    Getting their students to write is an ongoing battle for many teachers. With the end of the school year looming close, it's worth trying one or more of the many suggestions offered here to break through the resistance. Reluctant students will then become more amenable, so you can ease back into your regular lessons (this time with a bit of ed. tech, if not already added).
     
  20. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Apr 12, 2018

    As a teacher, I disagree with this, but as a child, I hated these as well. So it may be that some children do not need graphic organizers.
     
  21. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Apr 12, 2018

    I help students make an outline, when it's a possibility. We'll have a conversation and I'll jot down some notes.

    Say they have been asked to write about going to a favorite restaurant.

    Teacher: Okay, what restaurants do you like to eat at?
    Student: I don't know...
    Teacher: What is one place you can think of that you've been to?
    Student: ...
    Teacher: What about fast food?
    Student: Well we go to Burger King sometimes...
    Teacher writes "Burger King".
    Teacher: What's one thing you like about Burger King?
    Student: I don't know...
    Teacher: What do you usually order?
    Student: Well mostly just chicken tenders and fries and a soda...
    Teacher writes this in outline form.
    Teacher: Do you usually eat there or get food to go?
    ... And so on.

    The student can then take the outline to create a simple paragraph. It's a start!

    It's a tedious process but I've found once you start the conversation they get more confident with their ability to gather information. After doing this for a couple assignments, they're usually more capable of starting independently.
     
  22. TeacherWhoRuns

    TeacherWhoRuns Companion

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    Apr 23, 2018

    This is fourth grade.

    All of the ideas presented are great, and I'd have already tried many of them if I wasn't dealing with a principal who is so locked into curriculum that doing anything "off book" is considered as not meeting expectations. I'm not kidding. I have a coworker who noticed that her first graders needed work forming letters correctly. She found lessons and worksheets and employed various strategies, only to be told to stop doing anything that wasn't provided by the district. It's incredibly frustrating.

    So, while it would be great to do storyboards and let students write about their own interests, I don't have that kind of flexibility. The program we're teaching jumps from one style to another. Editorial, narrative, persuasive piece, etc. on specific topics. The problem is not necessarily getting them interested in what they're writing, as it is to get them to do anything. As I said originally, it's not everyone. It's only a few boys who are unwilling to actually do any work. We can have discussions all day about engaging kids, but it's hard to get the ones who don't care to turn around and make an effort....especially in the last two months of school.

    Given the restraints I have placed on me as far as teaching this year, plus some difficult personalities, I'm not so much asking for advice as venting frustrations.
     
  23. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Apr 24, 2018

    I am tutoring an ESL student and found that he loves using magnetic poetry words. I formulate a sentence and put those particular words in an envelope. He has to use all the words to create a logical sentence with none left over. Great for syntax. It worked well and he loved it. I also found a few nouns that he didn't know and that surprised me. This would be hard to do with a large group, admittedly.
     
  24. Been There

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    Apr 25, 2018

    I can definitely understand your frustration at being hobbled by your thickheaded principal! I was able to connect with the most challenging students like the ones you describe in your class only because I was allowed to augment, deviate and modify the adopted curriculum. Most importantly, I was allow to innovate, something that many teachers are not allowed to do.

    If your P. possesses some degree of reasoning ability, perhaps you can convince him to allow you to try out a few suggestions offered here, before the current school year ends. Without some creative intervention now, the boys' outlook doesn't look very bright.
     

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